Archive for March, 2011

Posted on 21st March 2011

community | open garden


Mandy Stubbs Open Garden

Mandy Stubbs open Garden

Mandy Stubbs, discovered her passion for permaculture 3 years ago.  Her garden prior to this conversion was supposed to have been a fairly easy care affair (and for 9 years this suited them well (except when the drought hit the following year and much of it died!) …that is until the reality of global warming and climate change struck, and books like those of David Suzuki changed her perspective on everything. Husband Paul is slower to yield, however, and at the moment is prone to thinking, in the mind of Mandy at least, that she’s always “going on about the planet and being an Eco Warrior …driving him around the bend!”

Mandy firmly believes “not to be put off by what others think.  If you believe it you can’t help yourself, but act”.  Now a coordinator of the Permaculture Sydney North Lane Cove Group ( , Mandy does lots for the cause, including helping at Permapatch ( , a community garden in the grounds of Chatswood’s Uniting Church on Mowbray Road, which has about 50 members, and designing many of the Permaculture’s garden displays for various shows, including one which she got to take out the coveted “Garden Display Award” for in the 2008 Gardening Australia Expo Sydney.  “I got to kiss Peter Cundal”, remembers Mandy, “and show people that they can grow edibles in small spaces in Sydney, in everything from pots and vertical plantings”.

Mandy certainly lives what she believes, with her garden reaping many vegetables and recycling all its green waste with worms, compost and chickens. “I adore my chooks”, says Mandy, “you give them scraps and they give you manure and eggs!”  Mandy’s own mother taught her much as a child growing up in England.  “I grew up with all those fabulous fruits, chicken, rabbits, veggies.  Everything was home grown and home made, even many of our clothes”.   Economic necessity was the reason back then, and might be the persuasion needed for Mandy’s own son. Nick, 22, is certainly beginning to see the garden in a new light too.  “He’s starting to come around”, says Mandy, “especially seeing he needs the money, so often asks if he can help!”

Always there is work to be done in the garden, but Mandy’s favourite time is going out at 6pm into the garden with a glass of wine and finding something to pick for dinner.  “I love looking at all the things – cuttings, seeds and so on, that I’ve been given by friends”.  Mandy believes in giving back, and plans for 2011 include a “greening the verges” project in her suburb where grass is replaced by food bearing and nature attracting plants, and she can stick in a sign that reads “please pick the food”!

Mandy Stubbs’ garden is open as part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme 26 and 27 March, 2011
The address is 5 Second Ave, Lane Cove.  There will be fee talks at 11am and 2pm daily on permaculture and composting.

There are around 150 different species of edible plants to encourage diversity. Verge planting with fig, guava, apple, herbs and veg.  Also pure breed chickens, bee hive, composting, worm farms, rain tanks, water recycling, solar. Tea, coffee, homemade cake. Homegrown/homemade items for sale. Diverse range of organic herb and vegetable seedlings for sale.   Experts will be on hand all day to answer gardening and sustainability questions. Sponsoring Permaculture North Lane Cove, towards helping the community live sustainably in all different kinds of ways. $6 Open Garden Scheme entry fee.

Photography by SUE STUBBS  | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under community
Posted on 14th March 2011

grow | olives


olive tree with fruit

olive tree growing in a pot

Nothing says “Mediterranean” quite like an olive.  These fruits have been used as a source of oil and flesh (once pickled) for Millennium, and these days are no less popular throughout the whole world.  As a garden specimen they are also very adaptable and ornamental.  The foliage is a beautiful silvery grey and very drought resistant once established and the plants themselves are also quite tolerant of cold.

Plants can grow in a number of ways, from espalier or “flat packed” against a wall, to standardized specimens or into trees, where they are normally kept pruned to about 4m tall.  They need a well drained soil or pot to perform well, with adequate moisture over winter and spring when they are in blossom.  Feed once a year with complete plant food.  Cropping will normally take about 5 years to produce decent quantities.  Olives are normally either for oil or fruit/pickling types, so be sure to choose a suitable variety that suits your need.  Kalamata is probably the most popular.

Olives appear on the trees in Australia at Christmas time and are large enough to pick by about February for green olives and March/April for black olives.  Of course, olives straight from the tree are totally inedible.  At some point thousands of years back people realised however that soaking them in the sea for a few weeks washed out the bitterness and rendered them delicious.

Commercially olives are treated with caustic soda, and other numbered ingredients!  If you’d rather replicate the Ancient Greeks and Romans and have salt brined olives, it’s easy, but does take some weeks.

To Pickle, soak olives in water for 10 days, changing water daily. Make a brine solution of 1 cup salt to 4 litres of water. Soak olives in brine for about 4 weeks, changing the brine solution every week. The time it takes varies greatly depending upon the olive variety. Weight the fruit under the water with a clean plate and you can speed the process up by cutting the skin, this will allow the brine soak into the olive more.

Some people prefer to make “sultana olives” which just uses straight rock salt instead of brine to draw out the bitter juices.  They layer olives and rock salt alternatively in a plastic container, punch holes in the lid and the base and turn the container daily allowing the juices to escape.  After about 10 days the olives should not be bitter and should look wrinkled.

With either method, when you are happy with the taste, store them in sterilised jars with fresh brine and a little olive oil to help keep them fresh.  You can add herbs etc 24 hours before use by pouring off the brine, adding oil and herbs and then enjoying these flavours imbued the next day.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow
Posted on 14th March 2011

harvest | olives


home harvest of olives

Pick green olives when they are pale green or yellow and black olives when dark purple. Once picked refrigerate until pickled.

What to do with glut

Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander are the experts when it comes to olives – so I have adapted this pickling method from them.

Soak olives in water for 10 days, changing water daily. Make a brine solution of 1 cup salt to 4 litres of water. Soak olives in brine for about 4 weeks, changing the brine solution every week. The time it takes varies greatly depending upon the olive variety. Some olives take months to lose their bitterness, so just keep trying them until they develop that delicious olivey flavour.

Drain olives and store in a weak brine solution or a mix of olive oil and white wine vinegar in a cool dark place.

Olive pate

350g pitted black olives
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
goats cheese, to serve

1. Place olives, parsley and garlic in a food processor. Process until chopped. Add oil and process until smooth. Spoon into sterilised jars. Seal. Store refrigerate for up to 1 month.
2. To serve, spread onto warm crostini and top with crumbled goats cheese.

Makes 1 cup

olive pate recipe

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Posted under harvest
Posted on 14th March 2011

cook | olives


Recipe for olive and potato salad

Potato & olive salad

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
8 medium kipfler potatoes
400g can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
100g baby green beans, trimmed, blanched
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1/2 small onion, finely sliced

1. Mix together oil, lemon juice and garlic in a large bowl.
2. Cook potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Drain and when cool enough to handle, peel and thickly slice. Add to lemon juice mixture and gently toss to coat.
3. Add cannellini beans, green beans and olives. Season to taste.

Serves 4

tip ….
When using kipfler potatoes, wash well under cold water. Cook in boiling water until just tender, not soft. The residual heat will finish the cooking process whilst cooling. I used Sicilian olives in this recipe, but experiment with different varieties and flavours.

try this ….

Olive foccacia
1 cup pitted black or green olives
100g goats cheese, crumbled
Foccacia Dough
2 cups (300g) flour, sifted
1 sachet (7g) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (250ml) warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

1. To make Focaccia Dough. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. Combine water with half of oil. Stir into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until dough becomes too firm to stir. Using your hands, work dough into a ball, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Brush a large bowl with remaining oil. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for 1 hr, until mixture doubles in size.
3. Preheat oven to 220C or 200C fan. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
4.Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, punch down and knead lightly. Press or roll into a 35cm x 23cm rectangle. Place on prepared tray.
5. Brush dough with oil and scatter over olives and goats cheese. Season well Bake for 25 mins, until crisp and golden.

Makes 1

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under cook
Posted on 1st March 2011

grow | marjoram


Grow herbs like marjoram in your own garden

Marjoram is a loved herb both for its fabulous culinary qualities and also for its medicinal properties.  In the garden, it grows to a height of about 40cm and is very closely related to oregano and in the mint family, where many herbs reside.

Marjoram makes a very pretty addition to the garden as a rockery or spreading plant over walls and comes in a variety of cultivars, including a bright gold form and variegated cream and white foliage type.

Marjoram is frost tender in very cold climates, but can easily be cut back and mulched to protect it or potted into containers and overwintered in more protected positions.  It likes a free draining position with full sun bringing out the flavour and colours of the plant, but will also tolerate semi shade.  Fertiliser isn’t necessary and regular trimming if not harvesting will maintain a healthy crop of young, tasty leaves.

The small leaves can be added fresh or dried easily and still keep their flavour, and are best picked just prior to flowering, but can used at any
time. The stems are useful for threading meat onto for kebabs, especially when they are about to flower and get some more height to them.  Hang them in a cool, dry place for a few days till dry and then store in sterilized jars for  no more than 6 months in order to maintain the best flavour.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow
Posted on 1st March 2011

harvest | marjoram


Snip fresh marjoram with scissors

Like all fresh herbs, marjoram is at its best when freshly picked. However, you can store picked marjoram in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Wrap in damp kitchen paper and store in crisper section.

What to do with glut

Both marjoram and oregano are herbs that dry very well without altering the flavour too much, in fact some say the flavour improves once dried. Secure bunches of marjoram with kitchen string, hang upside-down outdoors, for about 1 week, until leaves become crisp. Store in a clip-lock plastic bag in pantry for up to 3 months.

dried bunch of marjoram


As with basil and mint – try using marjoram in pesto or onion relish.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under harvest
Posted on 1st March 2011

cook | marjoram


Marjoram, tomato and bocconcini pasta recipe

Marjoram, tomato & bocconcini pasta

400g spaghettini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve 3 garlic cloves, sliced 1 long red chilli, chopped 2 tbsp marjoram leaves
2 tbsp baby capers
200g punnet grape tomatoes 220g cherry bocconcini, drained, torn

1. Cook spaghettini in a large pan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Drain and return to pan.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan on medium. Cook garlic, chilli, marjoram and capers for 2-3 mins, until fragrant. Add tomato and cook for 1-2 mins, until just beginning to soften.
3. Add to spaghettini with torn bocconcini and toss to combine. Serve in bowls topped with black pepper and extra oil.  Tip
Add a little reserved cooking liquid from pasta if needed to moisten spaghettini.

Serves 4

try this ….
Greek-style salad dressing – Mix together ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp chopped marjoram. Pour over a Greek salad and toss to combine.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under cook